Misinformation fatigue sets in

There’s a chance that this fatigue (aided by the ability to actually leave our homes, should these vaccines work as advertised) will lead to people giving up on the online social experiment — logging off and re-subscribing to their local newspaper (should it still exist), and finding their communities not just online, but IRL, though family, church, work, hobbies.

That’s a nice thing I sometimes think about.

But something else seems more likely. The pandemic has led more normal people to, as Facebook suggested, “find their community,” on some platform or other. They’ve found the news outlet that tells them what they want to hear, or the YouTube channel that pumps them with fantastical tales of imaginary wars between good and evil, or the Facebook group that reinforces those beliefs and links them with fellow travelers, or the Twitter follows who reliably “own” their perceived enemies.

It turns out maybe people don’t actually care about being lied to. And little is likely to change in 2021 unless and until platforms take actual responsibility for the way people gather and organize on them — admitting that their algorithms already guide what we see, who we speak to, what we buy, and what we believe, and working with outside experts to instead curate an experience that undoes a bit of the pollution that they’ve made.